Notes from the Lower-River Desk

Having spent some months driving the Mississippi Valley from St. Louis to Gulf—what used to be called “the lower river” by people other than the Army Corps—I am reminded of what there is to be gained by going over the same piece of land again and again. As kids, my friends and I came to […]

Igniting the Spark of Language for All

At the end of March, my daughter Luci turned two, and with this milestone of another year of life, her language abilities have taken flight. This week her preschool teacher Mr. Nick taught Luci and her classmates about cardinals, robins, and blue jays, so now Luci discusses the birds and the worms they eat, she […]

The Science of Love, Marriage, & Divorce

In the United States, most people know that over half of marriages end in divorce, making it seem like the success of a marriage is just as cavalier as a flip of a coin. Yet, new research continues to deepen that oft-repeated statistic (for instance, that the 50-50 success rate is wrong) and show how […]

The Impossible Whopper

Jules:           What is a miracle, Vincent? Vincent:      An act of God. Jules:          And what’s an act of God? Vincent:     When, um … God makes the impossible possible. But this morning I don’t think qualifies.       I tried Burger King’s “Impossible Whopper” today, which is being test-marketed in 59 BK stores in the St. […]

Comfortable Silence

Recently, I came across some essays I had written a few years back. These stories were mostly autobiographical, tales of personal observations and proclamations of personal beliefs. As I read over them, I remembered how quickly my hands had worked to tell these stories, eager to share them with an audience as quickly as I […]

Crime and Punishment

“Police should first ask, ‘Is there someone who can come get your kids?’” Stefanie Moore tells the packed audience of about 100 people assembled in the old Shaare Emeth Temple in St. Louis, Missouri. They are gathered on this last Friday in March to learn more about “women and reentry,” and by ‘reentry’ one means […]

Who Lived in Grant’s Home?

You remember Groucho’s old joke that he tossed like a softball to contestants on You Bet Your Life: Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? Marx accepted “Grant,” so they could win, but the answer was “no one,” since Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia, are entombed in sarcophagi and not buried in the earth. There […]

Pine Ridge Native Speaks on the Flooding Disaster

    The Pine Ridge Reservation, in southwest South Dakota, is having historic flooding. A dozen districts/towns are spread out over 3,500 square miles, making disaster relief more difficult for the Oglala Lakota government. Many residents live miles from main roads, do not have internet access, and heat their homes with wood. The Reservation’s water […]

In Praise of Outtakes

Outtakes from a film are one of my secret pleasures. In the rare moment, I actually go to see a movie in a theater these days, I am often one of the last people to leave. There are always a few of us, raging against the dying of the projector’s light, hoping that the end […]

Terrible Freedom

How many W2s and 1099s did you get this year? It might be a measure of how contemporary you are. A friend told me he got seven W2s, and four 1099s, this tax season. I thought he must be mistaken. But when he reeled them off—one company, then another, then his own business; artistic work; […]